Indefensible: What To Do Now–And Later–To Help Children Detained At the Border

Indefensible: What To Do Now–And Later–To Help Children Detained At the Border June 25, 2019

Concentration camp [con·cen·tra·tion camp] noun.

              def: a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities.

Last week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to some of our nation’s border detention facilities–where people are being held indefinitely in small spaces with little food, water or access to care or legal representation–as concentration camps. The next day, I was at the gym, watching side-by-side screens featuring different news networks. All had the captions on. Most days, I let my eyes bounce back and forth to witness the rhythmic discord between opposite ends of the echo chamber. But this time, I was focused on FOX News entirely. The commentators were discussing Ocasio-Cortez’ comments; calling her “ignorant,” “uneducated,” and other kinds of things that people call women of color who speak uncomfortable truths. But that’s for another post…

They went round and round, calling her out on many different levels for using such harsh language… but they never discussed the reality of conditions at the border.

Over the weekend, multiple reports blew open grotesque and alarming details about the facilities in which minors–separated from their parents– are being held. Reports of babies and toddlers without diapers; children as young as 8 being responsible for the younger ones; inadequate food and water; overcrowding and little time outside; groups of children huddled to sleep on concrete floors with no bedding or real blankets… It was, and is, horrifying. This is not other places. This is us, our own American backyard. On our watch, on our tax dollar.

By all accounts, this should be a nonpartisan matter, and an interfaith matter. This issue should overcome any barriers of ideology, policy or belief, because vulnerable children are being willfully hurt by people in power. People of faith should be indiscriminately up in arms about this systemic abuse. In some cases, the faith community is stepping up, with a diverse group of voices contributing to protest and advocacy.

And yet, everywhere you turn, people defend the indefensible.

Much like the news commentators who wanted to parse the words of Ocasio-Cortez, many are finding ways to defend the practices of leaving children cold, malnourished and unattended. “It’s an improvement over where they came from.” “Their parents broke the law.” “It’s fake news.” “They don’t really need soap.” “At least they’ve got a roof over their heads…”

The words people will use to make this all more

Palatable: pal·at·a·ble

But the words don’t matter much. Any justification for these atrocities, no matter how well-reasoned or articulated, is simply

Indefensible: in·de·fen·si·ble
In the meantime, let’s not parse words. “Concentration camp” sounds pretty spot on to me. Anybody who wants to call it something nicer is part of the problem. Don’t blame the people who call a thing what it is. Whether they are attorneys or reporters, pastors or politicians, teachers or anybody else with a voice– we need truth-tellers now. Get out there.
truth: /tro͞oTH/

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